Want More Happiness in Life? Just Give Up

Who hasn't heard "where there's a will, there's a way"?

Usually when someone wants you to do something you don't.   Save $100 every month from your paycheck (my husband).   Lose that 10 pounds.  Tell your partner you'll be home on time -- even though you never are (again, my husband).

Now a study is saying there’s more than one way to gain a sense of control over your life, according to new research from Johns Hopkins University, as reported by newswise.com.

The traditional view of a life in control is one in which an individual has taken actions to ensure success in both the near and long terms, says study author Erik G. Helzer, an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School. This is “primary control” ― the attempt to win mastery by striving for goals and asserting one’s will upon circumstances.

But, Helzer argues in a recently published paper, another method, “secondary control,” has been given short shrift in both the scientific literature and the attitudes of Western societies. Secondary control can be described as a mindset in which one accepts and adapts to the fact that much of life can’t be bent to human will.

Each method of control operates in a unique way and contributes significantly to a person’s sense of well-being, Helzer explains, adding that his paper breaks new ground by examining the role of secondary control in everyday life and not merely in the usual context of clinical studies involving people who use the method as a coping strategy after major traumas.

Study participants were asked a series of questions that measured their satisfaction with life, their mood at the time of the study, and the extent to which they agreed with statements reflecting primary or secondary control.

In a central finding, the researchers saw that both methods of control were associated with positive present mood in the test subjects, but only primary control was linked to negative mood, according to newswise.com. Does that mean that you can be happier if you take a secondary control view of life?

Researchers say yes.  Someone who takes a more "big-picture," reflective view of life could “succeed in promoting feelings of daily happiness, warmth, and peace,” even in the face of negative experiences, Helzer says.

I suppose it's all about perspective -- you know, that half-full cup?  OK, I'm late this time.  But maybe tomorrow I won't be.

True, this would be great if we all could do that.  And who hasn't felt better after sitting quietly for a moment, or even just taking a deep breath?   Now all we need to know is exactly how we can do this when we're sitting in five miles of back-up and were supposed to be home (ahem) a half-hour ago.


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